Groundhog Day: The Neocon Version

By Ron Forthofer

The 1993 movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, strikes a chord when I consider the latest neocons’ effort to push the U.S. into attacking Iran or supporting an Israeli attack. Similar to Bill Murray who lived the same day over and over, we are being forced to essentially relive late 2002 and early 2003. Then the neocons and the White House made false claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the threat Iraq supposedly posed. The situation is similar now except Iran has replaced Iraq as the target.

Evidently the neocons’ contempt for the U.S. public knows no bounds. They seem to think that we have already forgotten the role they played in building support for the attack on Iraq. Remember that this illegal attack and occupation have turned into what recently deceased General William Odom had said would be the "greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history". That attack and failed occupation have also led to the utter devastation of Iraq and Iraqi society. I really hope the neocons are wrong about us, and that former President George W. Bush was correct when he famously said: "fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again."

The neocons also are relying on the complicity of the corporate mainstream media. They are confident that these media will repeat the shameful coverage provided in the run-up to our attack on Iraq. Again I hope that the neocons are wrong, but I’m certainly not optimistic. The coverage or lack of coverage of three recent events raises concern: 1) Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s statement in February when, talking about Iran, she said: "it doesn’t directly threaten the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends, allies, and partners …"; 2) the dismissive U.S. reaction to the remarkable agreement reached in May between Brazil, Turkey and Iran on Iran’s enriched uranium; and 3) the Iranian offer in July to negotiate on a nuclear fuel swap without conditions.

In a rational world, the neocons would have lost their jobs due to their spreading of disinformation that played in a role in causing an unnecessary war. No one would take them seriously today. However, politics clearly overrides rationality in our bizarro world as these neocon ‘experts’ retain their jobs and influence.

Let’s ignore the neocons’ false claims and briefly consider reputable analysis of the Iranian situation. First, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate from 2007, a consensus report of 16 U.S. spy agencies, declared with "high confidence" that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003. The report also stated Iran’s "decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs."

In addition, in March 2009, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "the intelligence community agrees … that Iran has not decided to press forward … to have a nuclear weapon on top of a ballistic missile."
Even more current, in January 2010, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that there is still no evidence that Iran has made a final decision to build nuclear weapons.

This past January Israeli Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam, former director-general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, said it would probably take Iran seven years to develop nuclear weapons. He also called the official Israeli view regarding Iran possibly having nuclear weapons hysterical. In a February 2010 article in Haaretz, Dr. Avner Cohen, an Israeli expert on nuclear weapons, pointed out that the Israeli claims about an Iranian nuclear weapon being an existential threat were wildly overblown.

In November 2009 Mohamed ElBaradei, then the outgoing Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said he had seen "no credible evidence" that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. In an April 2010 interview, ElBaradei commented that Iran wants "nuclear weapons capability" — which is very different from having nuclear weapons — in order to be taken seriously by the U.S. as a regional power.

Despite these strong findings, Israel, the Obama administration and some members of Congress continue to set the stage for an attack on Iran, possibly with nuclear weapons. Of imminent concern, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity just alerted Obama that Israel might attack Iran as early as this month. The VIPS group called for Obama to quickly and publicly condemn any such attack. They think that such an Obama intervention would likely deter Israel and thus prevent a worldwide disaster of unfathomable proportions. Please call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 and encourage Obama to work to stop this looming disaster.

– Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics. He contributed this article to

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